Second only to perhaps Yorktown, Saratoga was undoubtedly one of the most important and significant battles of the American Revolution. Prior to this historic event, the ragtag American army’s fight for independence against the world’s mightiest empire had proven an uphill battle that many considered utterly impossible. However, in the face of unspeakable odds, the Americans proved to themselves and the world that victory was within their reach.
In 1777, the Americans maintained somewhat of a tactical advantage over their foreign enemies, capitalizing on their knowledge of their home terrain and using unconventional techniques like guerilla warfare, to take advantage of the British army’s antiquated strategies; however, with limited funds and no naval support to speak of, they knew their rebellion could only stand for so long. Their success hinged on gaining the support of a foreign ally.
Beginning in UK controlled Canada, British General John Burgoyne led an invasion army down through the Champlain Valley with plans to rendezvous with General Henry Clinton and his regiment as they marched north from New York City. With their combined forces, the British hoped to divide New England from the Southern Colonies, a plan that would have undoubtedly proven monumentally effective, except that Clinton and his troops never arrived.
Forced to continue unassisted, Burgoyne quickly found himself surrounded and unmatched in Saratoga. Though he secured a small tactical victory in the Battle of Freeman’s Farm on September 19th, the British suffered major casualties. With Burgoyne on the ropes, Clinton and his army attempted to divert the focus of American troops by capturing two forts in the Hudson River highlands, but it was no use; the Americans rallied and retook their lost ground. On October 17, General Burgoyne surrendered.
Following their defeat at the hands of the British in the French and Indian War a decade prior, France was eager for revenge but up to this point, was unsure of the viability of the American army. With their victory at Saratoga though, the Americans won their confidence and the French soon began supplying them with arms, funds and ships. This added support gave the United States the tools and resources it needed to defeat the British and win its independence.
Photo credit: Doug Kerr/Flickr Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/